Fort Worth

Fort Worth officials signal support for keeping red-light cameras

A red light camera at West Weatherford Street and Houston Street in downtown Fort Worth.
A red light camera at West Weatherford Street and Houston Street in downtown Fort Worth. Star-Telegram

The red-light-camera program is effective and should be continued, a city official told the City Council on Tuesday.

“First and foremost, the driver for this is public safety,” said Alonzo Linan, assistant director of transportation and public works. “Our goal is to change driver behavior through the issuance of citations.”

The first red-light cameras were installed in stages during 2008. In 2009, an average of 3,850 citations per camera were issued. Today, that’s down to 1,529, Linan said.

And wrecks at the same intersections have dropped off. In 2009, the crash rate was 0.70 per million vehicles at the intersections. By 2014, that was down to 0.23.

Still, critics say red-light cameras violate people’s privacy and serve as a revenue-generating trap.

The Arlington City Council voted last month to let voters decide May 9 whether red-light cameras will stay or go through a charter amendment. Activists collected more than the required 9,651 petition signatures from registered voters.

In the Texas Legislature, several bills have been filed to ban or limit the use of the cameras. A measure by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, seeks to do away with them.

“I’ve been a liberty guy and a privacy guy,” Stickland has said. “There are privacy concerns with the cameras.

“The Constitution tells us we have the right to face our accuser in court. How can you face your accuser if it’s a machine? … This is a big issue.”

Another criticism — that the cameras punish people who simply don’t come to a complete stop before turning right on red — isn’t entirely true in Fort Worth, Linan said.

Citations aren’t issued to drivers who turn right on red while traveling under 10 mph, only to those going faster, he said.

Linan gave this breakdown of citations:

▪ 45 percent to drivers running the light.

▪ 40 percent to drivers turning right on red faster than 10 mph.

▪ 15 percent to drivers turning left on red.

Fort Worth has collected $43.6 million from citations since 2008. Of that, $12.7 million has gone to the state’s trauma fund, $12.7 million to the city and $18.1 million to the cost of the program.

The City Council is expected to vote before June on whether to extend the camera program for another 11 years.

“We are enforcing a state law and we are using a program approved by the state in 2007,” Councilman Jungus Jordan said after Linan’s presentation.

“What our role is, at the local level, is public safety. What you have just shown us proves that we are doing our job, we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, and we are being fair about it.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst

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